4 16 JULY 2020
Butterflies reveal the
health of Britain’s wildlife
Take part in this summer’s Big Butterfly Count and you’ll be
contributing to vital conservation work, writes Alice Ryan
This year’s Big Butterfly Count could be the largest
yet, thanks to lockdown turning Britain into a nation
of naturalists. The charity behind the event, Butterfly
Conservation, has reported a 200% year-on-year
increase in species ID searches on its website, and
believes “there’s now a whole army of citizen
scientists ready and waiting to take part.”
“So many of us have had a bit more time to
appreciate the nature on our doorsteps during the
lockdown period, and learning about the natural
world has been a mindful distraction,” says naturalist
Chris Packham, who’s fronting the 2020 campaign.
“This is a chance to do something positive and
contribute to conserving nature.”
Now in its 11th year, the Big Butterfly Count is
officially the UK’s largest citizen science event, with
more than 113,000 people taking part last year. To
date, the count has logged more than 6.2 million
butterflies and moths, painting an “invaluable
picture” of the health of Britain’s wildlife,
according to Dr Zoe Randle, senior
surveys officer for the charity.
“Butterflies are an indicator
species – if they’re having a good
year, that means other species are
too; if they’re having a bad year, the
same is true. They reflect what’s
going on for other insects, but
because of their place in the food
chain, they also tell us how things are
looking for birds, hedgehogs and small
mammals,” explains Zoe. “They’re the wildlife
equivalent of the canary in the coal mine.”
Running from 17 July to 9 August, the 2020 count
is expected to record bumper numbers for two
reasons: the fact more members of the public are set
to take part, and the boost our sunny spring has given
to butterfly populations. “By May this year, 53 of the
UK’s 59 resident and regular migrant species had
already been seen, which is the first time that’s
happened this century,” says Zoe.
While early emergence can be a negative for
single-brood species, it’s a bonus for double-brooders,
as their second generation is likely to be bigger than
usual. But Zoe cautions that “overall, three-quarters
of our butterfly species are in long-term decline”,
with habitat loss and climate change key contributors.
“The good news is we can all do our bit,” she adds.
“Leave a wild area in your garden, plant butterflyfriendly
flowers such as lavender or buddleia and, of
course, take part in the Big Butterfly Count.”
Participants are asked to spend 15
minutes of a sunny day looking out for
a list of 19 species – 17 butterflies and
two day-flying moths. You can
download a free ID chart (or access
it via an app) and then submit your
findings at bigbutterflycount.
all a flutter The brimstone butterfly
is one of the 19 species included in the count
a wing and a prayer (Clockwise
from left) The small tortoiseshell, common
blue and marbled white butterflies
A poem by Andrea Charles-Munro
My intention for this is not to offend,
Just hope one day that racism will end.
Our parents came here to start a new life,
Settle down without any trouble and strife.
A new beginning it would be,
With jobs, happiness, and prosperity.
At times they were met with frowns and stares,
Unkind remarks, like no one cares.
This was their new home, where they belong,
But told to go back to where they were from.
Times of frustration and being dismissed;
Did they really leave the Caribbean for this?
Hopes of life in a better place,
But judged by their colour of skin and race.
Gone are the years of shackles and chains,
Yet the fight for equality still remains.
I remember visits to a well-known store,
Being followed each time I walked through
Down every aisle, while I queued at the till,
Constantly watched till I paid my bill.
We all may have a story to tell,
Of times we’ve not been treated well.
If race is no issue but forms we see,
A box to tick for our ethnicity.
It’s time for change for the next generation,
Time to end all discrimination.
With education and understanding
together we’ll grow;
We do still have a long way to go.
Don’t allow this matter to be left on the shelf;
Can’t keep watching history repeating itself.
We are the human race and should all unite;
Racism of any kind is just not right.
We can have our own opinions, thoughts and views,
But All Lives can only matter when Black Lives
are included too.
Andrea lives in Wimbledon,
London, with her husband and
three grown-up children, and
has been a published poet since
the age of 11. Her parents were
born in Grenada and came to
the UK in the 1950s, where
they met. They later married
and had four children.
Photography: NaturePL, Andrea Charles-Munro